10 Businesses You Can Run from Anywhere on Earth (And Start Today)

I still vividly remember the days before Location 180 where I’d sit in my cubicle reading blog posts about location independence from Chris Guillebeau.

The office building I worked at had an outdoor garden patio, where I used to go during my breaks to sit and daydream about someplace more exotic.  I’d pretend like I was sitting in a garden in Hong Kong for instance. Other days I’d run along the river in downtown Portland and pretend that I was running on the beach in Bali.

In some ways I think these daydreams helped to fast track my goal of actually being in these places.

In the 5 years since then I’ve talked to a lot of people who have built successful businesses – and a lot of people who have failed.

Throughout all of this there have been a variety of industries that over and over again I’m seeing people have success in. Some are easier than others to start. Some have more monetary upside. But ALL of them allow you to work from anywhere you’d like.

In order to make it a little bit easier to understand the differences between some of these I’ve rated each business type on a scale of 1 to 5, using three different categories (1 being easiest, 5 being most difficult):

  • Learning Curve: How difficult is it to learn the skills necessary to be successful? SEO writing for instance is pretty easy to grab the basics. Web development on the other hand is essentially like learning a new language and can be much more difficult.
  • Monetary Potential: Once you’re up and running, how much potential do you have to make the big bucks?
  • Time Investment: Certain businesses can get off the ground really quickly, while others can take a few years. How much time do you have to invest before you start to see major returns?

It’s worth noting these are all based off of what I’ve seen. With every single case there are outliers that may see money and success really quickly, as well as people who took much longer to see success.

We cover the essential skills to get started with many of these in Location Rebel. Thinking of getting going? I’m also happy to point you in the right direction, just shoot me an email at sean(@)seanogle.com

1) SEO Writing

For people who haven’t done much work online or have never started a business before, this is my go-to recommendation. Why? Because it’s easy to find work, doesn’t take a lot of technical knowledge, and can help you quickly build two of the most important things in solopreneurship: income and confidence.

We’ve had dozens (if not hundreds) of people in Location Rebel begin their online empires this way – so if you’re not sure where to start, this may be something to consider.

  • Learning Curve: 1/5
  • Monetary Potential: 2/5
  • Time Investment: 1/5

Recommended reading:

2) Blogger:

This one is actually probably harder than you think, and why I usually only recommend it as a component to a wider scale business early on. It’s taken me 5 years of consistent writing to get Location 180 to where it is today. What’s more, most of my income doesn’t come directly from the blog. The blog is a great lead generator and reputation builder, but money coming directly from this domain is relatively little in comparison to the business as a whole.

That said, it’s one of the easiest things you can do right now in order to get started, and even if it doesn’t turn into a business, it can create major positive change in your life. I have no hesitation in saying that starting a blog is the single best thing I’ve ever done for my career.

  • Learning Curve: 2/5
  • Monetary Potential: 3/5
  • Time Investment: 4/5

Recommended reading:

3) SEO Specialist:

This is exactly how I got my start. I began doing some marketing and SEO work for Dan over at the Tropical MBA, and for about two years that’s where most of my income came from.  The SEO landscape is changing quickly, however if you invest some time into learning the right way to do it – there is a lot of money to be made in this industry.

  • Learning Curve: 3/5
  • Monetary Potential: 3/5
  • Time Investment: 4/5

Recommended Reading:

  • How to Become an SEO Freelancer in 48 Hours – This is a little outdated, but it introduces you to some of the basics, and was the foundation for how I ran my SEO business
  • The Beginners Guide to SEO – This is the definitive free resource on the basics of SEO from Moz. If you want to go this route, then cruise through and read as many of their blog posts as you can as it represents a great introduction to that kind of work.

4) Copywriting:

I’m often asked about the most important skill you need to have in order to have success online; usually my answer is copywriting. If you can be persuasive with your words, you’ll never struggle to make money.  Whether it’s selling other people’s products, your own products, or writing on a freelance basis, there’s such a huge demand for people who know how to write in a way that converts.

  • Learning Curve: 2/5
  • Monetary Potential: 4/5
  • Time Investment: 2/5

Recommended reading:

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Not a copywriting book per-say, but it’s the book that has improved my selling ability the most.
  • The Gary Halbert Letters - Some of the best sales letters in the world. Read them. Study them. Copy them.
  • Copyhour – Not free, but Derek’s program is the best way to improve your copywriting skills I know of.
  • Location Rebel – Want to become a better copywriter and learn how to turn it into a business? Look no further.

5) Info-Product Creation

For the last couple years this has been my primary source of income. If you can find a way to solve other people’s biggest problems, create a product around it, and sell it, then you can make a ton of money.

It’s extremely easy to create an info product, however it’s much more difficult to sell it successfully (hence the learning curve score below).

I’ve found this type of business to be enjoyable, rewarding, and a lot of fun – however I always recommend people start with a form of freelancing before jumping into this, as it only increases your chance of success.

  • Learning Curve: 4/5
  • Monetary Potential: 5/5
  • Time Investment: 3/5

Recommended reading:

6) Podcasting

Over the past year or two we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of people doing podcasts. For many it’s a hobby, however if you structure it right, you can make a lot of money.

Usually this is blended with a combination of a few of these other strategies, but podcasting can be a fantastic alternative to a blog as a lead source.

John Lee Dumas is one of the best examples I’ve seen of this. In just over a year he’s grown his podcast to be one of the highest rated on iTunes and is making 6 figures a month doing it.

Another business model (and probably a better fit for this article is podcast management). Ben Krueger over at Authority Engine has built a successful people helping podcasters with everything down to the marketing to the editing. So if you’re good with audio and marketing, this is a faster way to make money than starting a podcast yourself.

  • Learning Curve: 3/5
  • Monetary Potential: 3/5
  • Time Investment: 4/5

Recommended reading:

7) PPC and Facebook Ad Consultant

Joel Runyon has been a good friend of mine for years now. We’ve hung out in Portland, Austin, Chicago, and even took a trip to Jordan together.

During all of that he’s been running his primary business managing PPC ad campaigns. There’s a huge market for this, especially as Facebook continue to push people towards paid advertisements.

In my mind this falls into the category of easy to learn, tough to master.  If you want to get paid good money for this you have to be really good at tracking and setting up analytics, testing copy etc.

The most difficult part of it, is that in order to learn you have to actually spend money on ads. This is why I have the learning curve so high here – because it can be an expensive experience to get your feet wet.  However once you’ve got it down there’s certainly money to be made.

  • Learning Curve: 4/5
  • Monetary Potential: 3/5
  • Time Investment: 3/5

Recommended reading:

8) Web Development

Web development and code is one of the best educations you can give yourself online.  You will always be able to find work, and it generally pays really well. That said, it’s essentially learning an entirely new language and it can take a long time to get proficient.

My friend Evan Lovely is a front end developer and a little while back he convinced his boss to let him work from the road. So he took a trip all over the world, and worked from his 11 inch Macbook Air.

  • Learning Curve: 5/5
  • Monetary Potential: 4/5
  • Time Investment: 5/5

Recommended reading:

  • Code Academy – Not reading so much, but if you want to get your feet wet, this is the best free service out there I know of for learning to code.

9) Back Office Setup and Management

This is something I’m seeing more and more people having success with, but not that many people are talking about it.

Some of the newest “all in one” marketing and back office services like Ontraport and Infusionsoft are a total bitch to setup and manage. As I know more and more bloggers who are at the point where these solutions make sense – they’re looking for help managing these services.  My Location Rebel Community Manager and Breaking Eighty counterpart, Liz Froment, has been finding a lot of success in this niche.

  • Learning Curve: 3/5
  • Monetary Potential: 3/5
  • Time Investment: 4/5

Unfortunately I don’t have much in the way of recommended reading, as like I said, not many people are talking about this from a business perspective – but a great starting point would be to pick one of these services and via their trial start learning the ins and outs of what it can do.

10) Social Media Consulting

Are you a social media whiz? Are you able to collect followers faster than all of your friends, and be attentive and interesting at the same time? This could be a great opportunity.

Everyone from large corporations to small companies to solopreneurs can need help rocking their social media presence around the web. Land one large client or a few smaller ones and all of a sudden you’ve got an income that you can support yourself with from anywhere in the world.

  • Learning Curve: 2/5
  • Monetary Potential: 2/5
  • Time Investment: 3/5

Recommended reading:

  • What is a Social Media Manager – A good overview of what you might be doing. Just try and look happy about working while in the Caribbean (unlike this girl).
  • How to Become a Facebook Expert in 48 Hours – Want to actually start learning some of the skills necessary for success? This monster post by Liz will help you do just that.
  • Social Brilliant – A full-fledged social media education from my friend Laura Roeder. I’ve heard fantastic things about this course, and if you decide to take this path seriously, this could be a great crash course.

These days there is so much opportunity out there for building a business that allows you to be a Location Rebel. Often it just takes a little bit of creativity and the ability to stay focused long enough to get it off the ground.

The ideas listed here are just a starting point. Other members of our community are killing it with app development, e-commerce, theme design and so much more. I chose the 10 above because I think they represent a good combination of interesting, marketable, and attainable.

Questions about how to get going? Just leave a comment or shoot me an email!

 

Sergio Sala April 24, 2014 at 9:28 am

Nice list, man! Would you count web development with web design?

I’d add Teamtreehouse on the web develop recommended reading, their courses are pretty awesome, funny, professional an theyre in Portland!

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Sean April 24, 2014 at 9:35 am

I was actually just reading an article about their 4 day workweeks – pretty cool.

I think web design and web development have the potential to be two totally different things, but they dont have to be. For this site, I had one person design it, and another code it.

If you’re one of the rare people that can design well and code, then you’re waaaay ahead of the game.

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Rus April 24, 2014 at 9:37 am

I can design and do front end dev. Please see my questions below :)

Sergio Sala April 24, 2014 at 11:13 am

Interesting. Well in my case I do web design, but I love to help bloggers, so im thinking about creating a small design studio online. I work on Genesis so I know how to code, design, hook, copywrite and help people to become awesome online!

Whatcha think?

Rus April 24, 2014 at 9:34 am

Good article!

I have about one year before I need to be self sufficient (won’t go into details here).

I’m a Sr. level Web/UI/UX Designer & Developer. I can write and know a bit about SEO.

My ideal situation would be to find a few steady clients that need my services. If at all possible, I’d like to stay away from Odesk and Freelancer.

Any suggestions on where I can start?

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Sean April 24, 2014 at 9:43 am

Rus,

A few things:

-If you do odesk and freelancer right, it can be a great source of leads and build your reputation. So I wouldnt totally write it off.
-Go to in person meetups in complimentary industries. For instance, SEO, social media, app development etc. Often those people are looking for development and design work and wont be too crowded with other people with the same background as you.

Conferences are also a great way to meet people for that kind of work.

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Rus April 24, 2014 at 9:51 am

Thanks, Sean!

Have any good info on working with Odesk and Freelancer? Like, ways to get ahead of the countless others on there?

Tate April 24, 2014 at 9:36 am

What I love about these businesses is that they all can overlap with each other. I started out messing around with blogging. As I figured out how to get more traffic that led to an understanding of SEO. I then transitioned into SEO writing to make some extra money. This led to not only a lucrative Copywriting gig, but also a freelance SEO client. I also have just recently been doing Social Media Consulting with a mix of PPC advertising.

The point is, don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to one business idea in this space.

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Sean April 24, 2014 at 9:44 am

Absolutely. In Location Rebel we call that the “skill matrix”. Learning one skill has direct applications to other parts of the business – and as you go on and acquire more skills, the business grows because of it.

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Ian April 24, 2014 at 9:40 am

Dude, great post!

I think the “back office” piece is really great, and I plan on looking into that for sure!

Very cool, tons of value.

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Edrick April 24, 2014 at 9:49 am

Great list here Sean :) . This is definitely a good resource for people who want to get started provided they follow through with the action needed to get going.

Would you say that some of these can be done together? Like say having a blog that documents learning one of these and providing the services via a different page?

Keep the good stuff coming!

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Sean April 24, 2014 at 9:51 am

Absolutely they can be. I think no matter which one of these you choose, starting a blog is a good idea. It gives you a way to apply some of these skills (SEO, copywriting etc), gives you the potential to build an audience and connect with new people, and can be a great source of leads for the business as well.

The only thing I’d be careful of is not trying to do too much at once. It’s really easy to spread yourself too thin and not make any progress on anything.

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Dave April 29, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Good tip Sean! I fell into that trap myself…so, now I’m refocusing my efforts; I want to do it the “right way” this time! Definitely good advice to focus on one step at a time.
Thank you for your quality information. Much appreciated

Mark April 24, 2014 at 10:24 am

Hey Sean great info, i really liked your location rebel guides. I am looking at working freelance and travelling however i work in financial services and much of what i do is data sensitive. How feasible is it to work from public wifi spots and still have sufficient security or should i look more towards long term leases with wifi or coworking spaces? Thanks

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Sean April 24, 2014 at 10:31 am

There are ways to make it more secure, but if you’re going to do that I’d look at getting a device you can tether to, or perhaps a mifi of some sort. If I’m doing anything with sensitive data at a coffee shop I usually try and switch over to my iphone wifi. That said, I’ve never had any issues with anything either way and proxies or a vpn can definitely help with security.

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Joseph Paulson April 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

Hey Sean,

Great post, just what I needed to read today. I’ve been teaching my self front end development for the last 3 years in hopes of finding Location independent work.

I’ve found Lynda.com to be very helpful for more advanced topics.

David Malan also gives an amazing introduction to programming in general. That course are available here. http://cs50.tv/

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Michael April 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

I would also add elearning as an option in there as well. We all have a skill or talent we can share. Providing services by means of online classes and webinars are an easy to get up and running option.

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Alec Barron April 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Sean is basically talking about exactly this in #5 Info-Product Creation. It’s definitely a great method, but as Sean mentions, there is a big learning curve.

So many people jump right in to creating info products and then find out no one wants what they’ve created.

To deal with this risk, you have to do more upfront work of gathering leads/subscribers and validating ideas before you spend any time or money on the product creation.

This is why Sean recommends freelancing first. Guys like Noah Kagan and Ramit Sethi typically recommend the same thing.

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Sofie April 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

Bookmarked for a moment when i’m more focused:)

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Tomas April 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Very useful list.
I’d also add stock photography to the list. And maybe website admin.

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Arman Assadi April 24, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hey Sean,

Wicked post! Will be sharing this with my peeps. I think one of the toughest things for people making the move to solopreneurship (or at least starting a business on the side first), is finding the path of least resistance.

Those of us who have made the leap know that it’s not about where you start. We’re constantly growing, making adjustments, and learning from the mistakes.

This list is awesome, and is just what people need to get started!

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Emily Culclasure April 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Such an awesome list, Sean! Well done.

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Jonny Blair April 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Great list here man – had no idea Podcasting was an earner!

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Joann April 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Bookmarked this!
This is pretty helpful for those who wanted to start a business online but don’t know where to start.

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Chas April 24, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Sean,
I tried looking up your first post on Location 180, but, was unable to click on the oldest post listed. I am wondering if you would mind sharing the link to it here? I am curious as to what your thoughts were at that time in writing that post and the direction of this blog and how it has changed course. I think it would be helpful to me. Thank you.

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Alec Barron April 28, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Found his first post here: http://www.seanogle.com/lifestyle-design/the-beginning

Pretty cool his first commenter was Chris Guillebeau!

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James Sibley April 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Awesome list :) One thing that isn’t on this list but something to consider for the technical-minded folks is web application testing. Basically your job is the test the security of websites/applications by acting a malicious hacker. In the end you give them a report on all issues found so that the people that hired you can fix their issues before they become liabilities.

Learning Curve: 5/5
Monetary Potential: 5/5
Time Investment: 3-5/5

The learning curve is high as it could take a year or more to learn the techniques needed (depending on motivation and prior knowledge of web technologies). The potential for money is high since it’s an in-demand skill and the supply of such skills doesn’t reach as high as demand. The time investment depends on the tester and the quality of the service they want to offer (thorough manual testing, point-and-click automated scanning, etc.).

One huge downside is managing legal liabilities and getting the paperwork right. As a tester if you mess something up and haven’t covered yourself, you could be in for some trouble.

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Charles April 25, 2014 at 12:53 am

Great post Sean. Interesting how the majority of these are related. Are there any of your members doing day trading? I have contact with a few traders that trade the markets location independent. Of course, the majority trade the US markets early EST time, so if you are in SE Asia, it would be an evening job.

Those who are able to master the first 6 “abilities” above are able to branch out with their own products or make decent incomes as affiliates for other SaaS, etc.

Otherwise, interested in knowing what others are doing to be location independent- real estate, freight forwarding, importing/exporting, etc.

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Heather845 April 25, 2014 at 4:07 am

This is exactly what I needed to read. Thanks so much for the info and the honest and friendly tone!

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Andrew Elsass April 26, 2014 at 9:13 am

Hey Sean,

Great post as always and timely for me. I recently started having some success with freelance copy editing and writing and am looking to take things to the next level–I think I have finally found the ‘it’ that will let me be own boss in the not too distant future.

That said, do you have any insight or wisdom to offer in regards to registering a freelance business as an LLC vs. an S-Corp? I’ve talked to several different freelancers and everyone tells me something different–was just wondering your take on it.

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Corey Roncoroni April 28, 2014 at 1:12 am

Had to share it on our own site. Liked the one about blogging because of the lifestyle it allows as you are living proof of it. Awesome stuff Sean.

youngandselfemployed.com.

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Scott Asai April 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Personally I’m working on the info-product right now. Watching a bunch of webinars and reading people’s blogs made me realize people don’t get paid as much for their time as they do things they sell (until they become celebrities). Therefore I’m working on the Udemy platform now, but I know the real trick will be how to promote it once it’s done. Any thoughts Sean?

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Sean April 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I think Udemy can be a great platform starting out, but if you see success with your first product I’d migrate off pretty quickly. They have some interesting quirks that can result in you not getting paid as much as you think you’ll be. Keep me posted!

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Alec Barron April 29, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Hey Scott, noticed you have a pretty good following on your blog already.

Any reason why you’re putting this on Udemy instead of selling direct to your readers?

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TC April 29, 2014 at 2:37 am

This is a great low down of what you can do. You have to consider your own abilities as well. For example, podcasting is never for me. I love to watch people who are doing it successfully but I cannot imagine doing it myself. Another example is that some people are great with words and others love to speak with codes. You need to decide which one you are first. Are you good at creative work or are you good ad writing?

This brings us to the next point. If you are good at one part of your business you can concentrate on that area and employ or contract others to do the other part. For example, I know coding but terrible at designs. So, whenever I need a website I contract it out to someone who is a lot more imaginative than me. It may take a while to find your thing but it is a process you need to go through first before you fully commit to earning a living online.

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Steve Erl April 29, 2014 at 10:52 am

Sean,

Does it ever blow your mind that regular people like me are currently in a cubicle right now plotting their escape and reading YOUR STUFF. must be a pretty cool feeling.

I’m a current Foundation Member and was recommended your blog by a fellow student and so far I am really impressed!

My question is, if I am someone who is looking to start a freelance SEO and Copywriting business, how long would you say it would take before seeing a good income from this? (by good income I mean $1000-1500/mo)

I’m currently building my own SaaS business but also have a full time job that I don’t hate but it is rather soul crushing at times. I have always felt my writing skills were above average (History and Literature major), and since joining The Foundation my knowledge of internet marketing, copywriting, and SEO have sky rocketed. Just curious on your thoughts on how long this might take to get up and running?

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Sean May 1, 2014 at 7:38 am

Steve, it TOTALLY blows my mind. But definitely a pretty cool feeling.

It totally depends on how much time you have to devote to it. We’ve had some LR members make $4-5k in their first month, and other people don’t make their first $1k til 6 months in.

With your writing skills, and a decent looking services website I’d think within 60 days you should be able to get up to $1k a month pretty easily.

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The Wallet Doctor May 4, 2014 at 10:04 am

Great list complete with great resources. I’ve found SEO writing to be a good foot in the door as well. Working on this part of the online market can really introduce you to a lot of the possibilities out there. You can do a lot more than just SEO, but it s a good starting point!

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dave May 5, 2014 at 3:41 am

Awesome post Sean – thank god for the internet opening up all these doors.

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John P May 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for this great list. A lot of options to create and make money off of those creations. I think the main key is choosing one to start and sticking with it. Patience is always key.

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Laura Roeder May 6, 2014 at 1:34 am

Excellent post and thanks for the mention :)

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Erika May 9, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Love this. Your rating system is genius- it gives you a quick insight. My husband’s work has taken us abroad and I am looking for a way to start a location independent business since I had to sell my personal training biz when we left the states. I can tell I will be referring back to this post. Thanks.

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Skins June 8, 2014 at 8:31 am

Great list here. People can live the lap top lifestyle if they’re willing to put in that hard work and be consistent. Keep up the great work!

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James Shannon June 13, 2014 at 10:20 pm

#1 is how I got my start as a traveler that has a way with words. All I had to do was befriend people within the travel space over the course of 2 years, offering to help them in any way I could. I started when I had a day job, and after my ESL job in South Korea fell through (due to crooked hogwan boss – par for the course there unfortunately) I had enough money to survive in SE Asia, and after a little extra networking and a few referrals later, I’m profitable in the developing world, and I can break even back here in Canada.

This is just the start, but I’m so pumped now! I am investigating extra business activities right now, and the other 9 you list Sean offer a starting point … thanks man!

P.S. The “start a blog” post you made way back 3+ years ago inspired me you start my site. It’s still smaller than it should be, but it has allowed me to meet people that have gotten me to where I am now. Thanks! :)

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Sean April 24, 2014 at 9:52 am

Yeah one of our members did a whole interview and mini blueprint on it inside Location Rebel.

She also did a guest post thats a great starting point:

http://www.seanogle.com/guest-posts/hacking-odesk

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Rus April 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

Outstanding!

Thanks!

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